Chapter 30:

"Little Saint Yuka"

Vibrancy x Vibrancy

With the grand unveiling of the Soga Screen a bust and Takeuchi’s rally now over, the park gradually empties. From my spot on the bench, I watch the crowd dissipate and can only slouch. Suga on the school rooftop, the Class Prez with her back against the outfield wall. Summer couldn’t end - it was eternal, going on and on and then some.

But it did end. A breeze comes through the park - not those romantic summer breezes, full of warmth and a hint of easy living, but one slightly cooled by the approaching autumn. Trees sway next to me, the greens on their leaves already starting to fade. Across the street, there’s a candle shop - all the flames on the wax sticks lining the window have gone out. Or maybe they were never lit in the first place. I want to smoke a cigarette, but I decided to quit back at that Hoshinomori ryokan, so I’m left to fend off the ugly feeling gnawing at me with nothing more than my own sobriety.

In contrast to everyone leaving the park, heading away from me, a tall woman approaches my bench. Ume sighs in relief as she arrives in front of me. “I’m glad you’re okay, Shunsuke. That big guy would’ve twisted you in half like a pretzel.”

Again, not helping my pride.

“He’s alright,” I answer. “He can make a mean sandwich.”


I wave the sandwich talk away. Ume slips onto the bench next to me, brown hair curling and falling past her face. We don’t say nothing for a long while - we just people watch. Nobody interesting passes by. But I can tell - the way she’s slightly turned toward me, that she’s here to listen to whatever I have to say. And, after going through a year-and-a-half of college without having anyone to talk to, people listening to me feels pretty cathartic.

“Do you ever feel like you have no idea what you’re doing in life?”

Ume answers quickly. “Always.”

“But wasn’t there at least one point in your life when you did?”

She scratches her temple. “I guess I did in high school. I want to get my dad’s attention. But when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, I wasn’t sure what the point of it all was anymore.” Birds fly overhead as she leans her head back on the bench, her hair spilling out behind her. “Things used to be so much fun.”

I can only join her in leaning my head back. The sky overhead is overcast. “Yeah, I know what you mean. In high school, I worked toward getting into a good school, because the future was filled with endless possibilities. But now that I’m actually in the future, I can’t believe this is the possibility I ended up with. Maybe my best days are behind me. Don’t you think so?”

Ume turns completely toward me, resting her head on an upraised palm. “When did you get so gloomy? And besides, high school can’t be my best days. I poisoned my friendship with Shizuko and ended up alone. If those days were the best of my life, then I think it’ll be one sorry life.”

She slips off the bench, light on her feet, graceful in her movements. “Here’s my contact info. I don’t know if I feel comfortable meeting with Shizuko in person again, but…maybe.”

We trade info, and then she departs, long brunette hair disappearing into Soga’s streets and buildings. I look up again - I guess a gray sky isn’t so bad. I then get two messages on my phone:

Ume: Just got the oddest taxi driver.

Shizuko: back at the ryokan, yuka is here with me lol she’s in a real sad mood and thought she could use a friend haha

I ask Ume if the driver looks like a Daisuke cousin (he does) so that settles that. As for Shizuko - I arrive back at the ryokan after a short train ride. This one is in a maze of streets, a far cry from the village huts we stayed in earlier in the Yoshiaki countryside. When I enter my room, my stuff’s already there, so I head over to Shizuko’s room. She lets me in, and a smile immediately makes landfall across my face.

She’s wearing the black Shelter? Yes shirt I gave her at the Nobuhide statue. It’s a little baggy on her, down to her thighs, but a woman wearing your shirt is like planting a flag. Not that she’s my property or anything, but there was a distinctive, pure sense of fuck yeah rattling around my head, especially when she tapped on the shirt knowingly. And speaking of the color black - her hair’s grown even longer, the natural black color reclaiming most of it, the yellow dye push to the end of long strands.

“How was your day out?” Shizuko asks, sitting on the tatami mat on one side of the table. I sit behind the other, our usual positions on so many other nights at other ryokans; I’m glad she’s sitting there smiling at me.

“Mayor Takeuchi announced he’s running for governor. He’s an angry fellow, I can tell you that much. But people seem to like him.”

Her eyes widen at recognition in the name and she taps her fingers along the table. How do I describe it - the darker her hair has become, the brighter she feels. I remember her subdued muteness on the day we met, but sitting across from her today, she looks like she’s inspired to do something big and grand.

“I don’t like him,” she says quietly. “I heard a rumor growing up. That he founded a fake charity. So when people donated to it, he received all the gifts. He got out of it by making up a fake religion.”

I whistle. “He’s something, alright.” I want to change the topic to something more pleasant, but the entire time I’ve been in the room, somebody’s been crying down the hall. “Is Yuka okay?”

Shizuko twirls a strand of black-and-gold hair around a finger. “I don’t know. She’s been really upset since the screen broke-”

The door opens and Yuka walks in with a face full of tears. “I…I just wanted to see…how it worked from the inside.” She stumbles and melts to the ground next to Shizuko, crying into her arm. Shizuko’s taken aback at first, but she gently holds her in a hug. 

“I…I broke it,” Yuka admits. “I broke the Soga Screen.”

Shizuko’s eyes widen, as do mine. 

“You broke the screen?” I repeat, still in disbelief.

Yuka sniffles out a confession. “I just wanted to see how the circuits work.”

Shizuko holds her tighter, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around things. “You? But how? Wouldn’t there be security inside the skyscraper?”

After a series of long sobs, Yuka blows her nose into the Shelter? Yes shirt. For a brief moment, I’m ready to punt this child into the stratosphere, but it’s just a shirt and she’s a person, and one going through a difficult moment at that.

“The security guard…is one of my father’s cousins.” Well, that explains everything. She then wipes her eyes. “I just want my father to notice me. I know he’s busy and all, but doesn’t he have the time to take an interest in me?”

I recall Daisuke’s words from earlier today. “He does have an interest in you. He just doesn’t understand what you’re interested in. I think he oughta learn about it instead of setting up a huge television for you.”

Yuka manages to stop crying. “He set up the Soga Screen for me?” When I nod, she wipes her face off on Shizuko’s shirt.

Shizuko herself, reacting remarkably well to someone smearing her bodily fluids on her, pats Yuka on the head. “Parents are people too. They mean well, but they can make mistakes. They can learn. I hope they do.”

As she speaks, I can’t help but wonder when Shizuko last saw her parents. Would it have been the day she left for Tokyo? From the way she speaks, it sure sounds like it. But her voice doesn’t carry hatred with it; it feels full of forgiveness.

“C’mon,” I tell Yuka. “Let’s fess up to your dad. He’s not the kind of guy who’ll hate you for this. You’re his daughter.”

That fuels her. She suddenly stands up to her full middle school height. “That’s right. I’m his daughter. I’m a Daisuke, and if there’s one thing the Daisukes are good at, it’s that we never leave each other out in the cold. Once a Daisuke, always a Daisuke.” She nods at Shizuko and I. “I need to make things right. I’m gonna fix that screen.”

I raise an eyebrow. “How? I know you like circuits, but you’re still in high school. What do you know about fixing big screens?”

“Steve Wozniak knew,” she retorts, then rushes around the room, gathering her belongings.

I look at Shizuko for support, because with all due respect, this was a ridiculous idea, but she vigorously nods her head in agreement with Yuka. The ambitious look on her face, accentuated by her dark hair, makes it clear she’s scheming up something, too.

“Look, Yuka,” I say, trying to be the realist here. “I know you’re full of youth and vigor, but part of growing up is understanding that big dreams don’t always work out. Anything seems possible, but really, it would take a miracle to fix a gigantic screen like this.”

Yuka puts her hands on her hips and flashes me a smile - that distinctive, charismatic Daisuke smile. “Now, don’t go saying that. Miracles happen every day. To people like you and people like me. But we can’t expect miracles...unless we help make them to be.”

I exchange a glance with Shizuko - neither of us know why Yuka’s singing now, but Shizuko is for it, caught up in the music, following Yuka with her eyes as she darts around the room.

“You love,” Yuka says to me, going through her backpack.

“I love?”

“And I’ll solder.” She pulls out a propane torch and nods in approval. “You pray.”

Shizuko kneels next to her. “I pray.”

“And I’ll ply.” Yuka twirls around the room, holding a pair of pliers in her hands. Her singing is infectious, because she believes that better days are ahead, not behind her. I frown, trying to fight the upbeat positivity emanating from her, but then she points the pliers at me and sings-

“And we’ll do what’s necessary, cuz-”

I look down and see a miracle in my hand. 

Steward McOy